The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius, 2011)

28Jan12

Jean Dujardin (George Valentin), Bérénice Bejo (Peppy Miller). Directed by Michael Hazanavicius. Rating: PG. Running time: 100 minutes.

Fresh off formidable reviews and awards-season success, The Artist comes to our multiplexes against all odds. The trailer cleverly disguises the fact that by going to see it, you will be swapping dialogue for silence. That move has resulted in an array of refunds, but nowhere near the number one might expect. And yet in spite of this aura of euphoria – indeed, maybe even because of it – I was left feeling somewhat cold. Put simply, I’m lost as to what to say. I have arrived very late to the party, and having been bludgeoned over the head by the press for a month about how this is a swoon-inducing charm-fest for all ages, expectations had been driven sky-high. The result, it seems, was that the picture was doomed to disappoint.

This is the awkward truth: The Artist suffers from something. I couldn’t watch Dujardin’s handsome face or his clever, undeniably adorable dog Uggie without a slightly awkward if nebulous feeling of self-consciousness about the fact that I’ve been forced to feel that it’s marvellous. The film doesn’t demand analysis because it’s intended as a simple, pure pleasure, but having been overpraised for achieving precisely that, the simplicity of just seeing it has strangely slipped away.

I’m not alone here. Times columnist Sathnam Sanghera tweeted earlier this week that having finally seen it, he felt like he was experiencing Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do fifteen weeks after it soared to Number One. His reaction was one of indifference, but he noted that had he discovered it himself through a stroke of serendipity, he would have no doubt found it sufficiently swell and charming to label it a triumph.

He’s spot on. There is nothing wrong with the film, but the pleasure it provides ends up so damn wimpish. Its success serves as a lesson and a paradox: hype can make a film, but it can also drastically detract from its sweetness. Unless you’ve cocooned yourself from ads, reviews and word of mouth for the past four weeks, oh so sadly and ironically, you needn’t prepare for a bang.

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One Response to “The Artist (Michael Hazanavicius, 2011)”

  1. This was a very well-made film and had its moments where it captures the whole spirit and essence of the silent film era but it’s not that life-changing experience that everybody says it is. Still, a good flick though and I do think it does still deserve the Best Picture Oscar just because I don’t think The Descendants would be a very good winner that will last for the ages. Good review Jacob.


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